President Barack Obama, in his video address at the 57th annual Grammy awards said, “artists have a unique power to change minds and attitudes and get us thinking and talking about what matters”. Watching the Grammy awards like I do every year, I wasn’t expecting the President of the United States to make an appearance in any way. But what he had had to say about ending sexual violence and about the influence each artist has over their fans to promote change was moving and intriguing. In light of celebrating Black History month along with discussing sexual violence awareness on campus this month, I began to think about the power we have as a community to promote change and influence others.
We all have the power to set an example for others. As Annie discusses in her reflection, we are all artists in our own way. Whether we work in the medium of painting, Peace Justice and Conflict studies, or biochemistry, there is an art to what we do. In her artist’s editor’s statement, the Record is expanding our definition of an artist in order to appreciate all unique qualities artists have on campus, and to recognize the connection that we all share.
While the audience the president was addressing is composed of well-known celebrities, he was simultaneously addressing the nation. Although most of us do not have a fan-base consisting of thousands, we have a close-knit community of friends and family members who we represent and set examples for on a daily basis. You as an artist are valued by this community.
This morning’s convocation introduced the celebration of Black History Month. We listened to some of our student body highlight some of the problems that are still embedded within our white-dominant society today. While we celebrate the history of progress our country has made from the days of slavery, and we appreciate all of the individuals who have been responsible for that progress, we must accept as a whole that there is still work to be done on the equality front. We must learn that socially constructed concepts of race and gender are exactly that: socially constructed; and nothing more. We as artists have the power to create the world we desire to see.
So I will leave you with the last words of President Obama’s message:
“It’s on all of us to create a culture where violence isn’t tolerated, where survivors are supported, and where all our young people, men and women go as far as their talents and their dreams will take them.”
Let us all spend the rest of this month striving to set an example for others around us, and collaborate as artists to be the change that we as a community wish to see.